Two Israeli Men Drown in Southern Kibbutz Pool

Police suspect the two, both in their twenties, entered the swimming pool in Kibbutz Yotvata overnight Friday while intoxicated.

Two Israeli men were found dead Saturday at a pool in Kibbutz Yotvata in southern Israel. Police suspect the two drowned overnight after they entered the pool while drunk.

The bodies of 25-year-old Maharat Atlai, from Kiryat Gat, and his friend 23-year-old Kavda Sandeko, from Ashkelon, were found on Saturday morning at a pool in Kibbutz Yotvata, in the Arava. The first body was found by a kibbutz resident in the morning. The second was discovered at the bottom of the pool only after other kibbutz residents arrived at the scene. The residents called the police and rescue services after removing both bodies from the pool. Magen David Adom officials who arrived on the scene failed to resuscitate the men, and declared the two dead.

An initial police investigation has found that Atlai lived on the kibbutz, within the framework of project “Telem” - a kibbutz program meant to assist young Ethiopians in adjusting to Israeli society. Sandeko, police said, was a friend of Atlai’s who came to visit him.

The two apparently drank alcohol at the kibbutz bar on Friday night and went into the kibbutz pool drunk during the early hours of the morning. At the time the pool was closed, and police claim that the young men scaled the fence in order to enter the pool area.

Atlai arrived in December, along with 8 other young adults, and worked in the kibbutz cafeteria, Kibbutz secretary Anat Ben Yosef, who knew the victim personally, said. "He was greatly admired by his friends in the project and forged a bond with the cafeteria staff. He was a strong, wonderful, friendly young man,” she added.

“The young men get a little push forward,” a long-time Kibbutz Yotavata member told Haaretz about Telem, a project that has been running at the kibbutz for the past 14 years. “They are in a safe area, and there have been couples that met on the program, married, and had children.”